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ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Bar Council (PBC), the supervisory body of lawyers, has condemned the federal government’s statement issued through an unnamed spokesperson in reaction to the observations of a Supreme Court judge and termed it “derogatory and contemptuous”.

PBC vice chairperson Muhammad Ahsan Bhoon and Hafeezur Rehman, chairperson of the PBC’s executive committee, released a joint statement here on Saturday, requesting the Supreme Court to “take immediate legal and penal action against those on whose behest the said statement had been issued”.

The PBC’s decision to condemn the government’s remarks is telling since only last month it had rejected the call from lawyers’ bodies to launch a protest to demand the prime minister’s resignation in the aftermath of the April 20 Supreme Court judgement in the Panama Papers case.

Lawyers’ body wants SC to take ‘legal, penal’ action against Nehal Hashmi

However, in the statement issued on Saturday, PBC office-bearers “strongly condemned the politically-motivated and calculated statement by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader Nehal Hashmi threatening the judges of the Supreme Court and the members of the joint investigating team (JIT) probing Panama Papers case against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his family members”.

They termed Mr Hashmi’s statements a “manipulated and managed move” and an attempt to “pressurise” the JIT and the judges of the apex court. The lawyers also called for the registration of a criminal case against the PML-N leader, stating that “the verbal attack by Nehal Hashmi on the apex court and its nominated JIT falls within the ambit of Sections 6 and 7 of the Anti-Terrorists Act (ATA)”.

Hours after Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed had equated Mr Hashmi’s outburst with threats that the Sicilian mafia used to issue to judges and their families in Italy, the federal government issued a statement accusing the judge of “violating his oath of office and bringing a bad name to the country”.

The uncharacteristically strongly worded reply from the unnamed spokesperson for the government regretted that an honourable judge had declared the government a “Sicilian mafia” and accused the attorney general of being the government’s representative — an act which, the spokesperson stressed, had damaged the prestige of the country before the international community.

“Such a baseless remark is against the oath and code of conduct of the judges,” the spokesperson had said, adding that the court had not only ignored the disciplinary action taken against Mr Hashmi by the prime minister, but had instead levelled baseless allegations against the government.

The PBC representatives declared that the legal fraternity had always stood for the supremacy of the Constitution, rule of law and independence of the judiciary and would “fully stand by the Supreme Court against any ill-motivated and politically-designed onslaught of the government to threaten the independence and constitutional functioning of the judiciary”.

They “warned” the government to “desist” from its moves of creating hindrance against constitutional and judicial functioning of the Supreme Court regarding the Panama Papers case “which is exposing the rulers’ criminal acts of money laundering of billions of rupees from public exchequer”.

“Otherwise, lawyers will not hesitate to launch a countrywide movement against the government,” they concluded.

In a related development, the office of the Attorney General of Pakistan sent letters to the prosecutor general and the advocate general for Sindh, asking them to look into the possibilities of lodging a formal case against Mr Hashmi for allegedly threatening the judiciary.

Sources said that the AG had informed the two Sindh legal officers that since Mr Hashmi had delivered the speech in Karachi, therefore, the provincial authorities should look into the matter and see if a complaint could be registered against him under the Pakistan Penal Code.

Published in Dawn, June 4th, 2017